As many of you know, I’ve been selling Chile for a while. I have invited my friends and family to visit. I have offered to act as tour guide. And finally, someone took the bait. 😉 A few months ago, my friend Jamie told me that she was planning a trip to Brazil for Carnival in February, and was contemplating stopping off in Chile first. Of course I said, “Yes! Come visit. We will have a great time.” So this past weekend, I hosted my first visitor.
Chile is so big that I spent three weeks traveling last March, and I only saw a fraction of the country. For this quick visit, I recommended that she keep to Santiago and Viña del Mar-Valparaíso area. The next time she comes for a visit, we could explore some more beautiful places. There are many pictures below, so I hope you enjoy them!
My favorite part of Chile is living here. It’s the every day culture and life that I enjoy here in my city by the sea. Of course this means a lot of walking; it also means a trip to the feria, eating at my favorite places, drinking a lot of wine and yes, doing a few touristy things. As I’m quickly becoming an expert in Chilean cuisine, I wanted to show her what Chile had to offer. We chose empanadas and chorrillana. What’s a chorrillana? It’s an amazing version of cheese fries, could be compared to the Canadian poutine, a delicious combination of cheese and meat and sautéed onions with a fried egg on top. We began Friday evening at La Flor de Chile, a locally famous restaurant. The chorrillana – my goodness was it good – but definitely not something you order every day. Of course we enjoyed it with pisco sour!
Saturday we started with a walk to the feria. I was keen to share this with a fellow food lover and chef. I have one regular vendor I visit, specifically for avocado. He gained my loyalty a couple of months ago on my first visit to his booth. He offered the paltas to me to ensure they were exactly the level of ripeness I wanted (as much of the fruits and veggies are out of reach, and usually the vendors just pick for you). Since my Spanish has been OK, but not great, I have usually been hesitant to push back and ask to see my purchases before they are bagged, to ensure they are exactly what I want. (I have since become braver, no worries!) The fact that this particular gentleman did this automatically impressed me. Then, he returned some extra change to me, as I had overpaid by 100 pesos. I have been going back to him every since.
So of course, he was our first stop. It was a lovely morning, and we were early enough to avoid the crowds. We made our way around, wondering at the plenty available around us. Jamie was as impressed with all the fruit as I have been, and purchased some nectarines for her stay. We returned home to get sustenance and supplies before heading to Valparaíso.
I felt compelled to take Jamie to Valpo, as it’s so well known and has so many things to see. Two of the hills (Cerro Alegre and Cerro Cocepción) along with Plaza Sotomayor are actually a UNESCO heritage site. There is more (really beautiful) graffiti art in this city than any other place I’ve been. That alone is worth the trip. Since I felt so under-equipped to show her around Valpo, we joined a Tour 4 Tips walk around the city. We took a ride in a historic trolley car, went up a hill in a funicular, came down a slide instead of using the stairs, wound our way through the city streets and eventually found our way back to the Plaza.
By the end, we were happy, exhausted and starving. A small craft brewery restaurant, Altamira, provided our salvation. I chose the 5-beer sampler, and of course enjoyed the darkest beers best. Marta joined us for dinner and drinks. Having refreshed ourselves, we made our way back to Viña.
What would a visit to Chile be without a wine tour? Sunday we joined a tour of 3 wineries in the area. The closest valley to Viña specializes in white and sparkling wines, so no Carmenere for me today. Still, it was an excellent day. We began at an organic winery (Emiliana). This was by far the best winery tour I have experienced. Our tour guide ensured we each had a glass of wine – at 10:30 in the morning – as we made our way around.
We learned how the different plants and animals all work together to keep the vineyard working and the grapes healthy. They use rosebushes to advise them when pests are nearby, as they usually attack rosebushes first. They use chickens to eat bugs, and let them run free through various sections of the vines. They use alpacas for fertilizer and to keep non-vine plants in check. Of course, we finished with a wine tasting and could not help but purchase a few bottles! I also bought some honey, as I thought it must be good. They keep bees on the property as well. You can all well imagine how much I enjoyed this winery!
Our next stop took us to Indomita, with a tremendous view on top of a hill. We enjoyed another leisurely glass of wine before departing for our final winery. At Viñamar, we purchased a bottle of sparkling wine for about $10 along with some charcuterie for lunch. The sun shone all day for us. We returned happy, fed and once again, very tired.
Monday we took it easy, meeting for coffee and breakfast before taking a long walk around Viña. It was such a great weekend, and I was so happy to have her visit! She spent her final day in Santiago, attending a cooking class of typical Chilean cuisine (which included a pisco sour, because, why not?). They shopped for ingredients in the market before making their meal, and it sounds like she had a great time.
If any of you find you have time, money and inclination, I would love to see you here. J Hugs until next time.